The Reacher Influence
I’m clearly addicted. I blame my sister. She has always loved the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child and so when one came my way, I tried it. Didn’t like it at all, I said, not confessing that I read it in one sitting.
Then I saw another free Jack Reacher novel at the gym. (Did I mention that I belong to the most perfect gym ever? They give away free books there.) The second book I read was ONE SHOT — That’s the novel that the recent Jack Reacher movie is based on–the one with Tom Cruise. The movie my sister refuses to see because Tom Cruise is 5′ 6″.
Reacher is 6′ 5″. Reacher starts off around two-hundred pounds or so, but after enough books he’s up to two hundred and fifty pounds of killing muscle. Reacher grinds men’s bones to make his bread. He also lives off diner food.
Then there are the women. They are slender, they are pretty. They tend to loan Reacher their cars on sight. Then they sleep with him. They are either incredibly competent or they have small, yet adorable children and someone has been incredibly cruel to them.
Reacher never ever owns any possessions until after a long time he compromises and begins to carry a travel toothbrush.
Reacher was made for the reader–male or female–who has a lotta kids, a lotta mortgage, a lotta burdens and obligations. Reacher was made for the reader who leaves a strip mall on Saturdays with a car full of stuff feeling empty and weird.
The brilliance of Lee Child is that he knows how to keep you turning those pages. Child sacrifices plausibility for the sake of action, lots of action, coming at you fast, fast, fast. “Character is king”– and Reacher is nothing if not a character. Reacher walks with total confidence, he analyses crimes with total confidence. He matches his arrogance against the arrogance of the bad guys and he comes out on top by playing dirty as much as he possibly can.
Reacher is a funny one. Reacher’s peferred method of starting a fight is to give a sudden, unexpected crushing head butt.
Ever get frustrated with good guys pansy-footing around? Are you thinking as you read Don’t tie the bad guy up–he’s just going to get away? Do you ever want to chant Just kill him–just kill him! to the good guys? Reacher is your kinda guy. Reacher does not tie up bad guys. He does not hand them over to the cops. Why bother? The bad guys are very dead by the time Reacher is through. Reacher does not aim for truth or justice, he aims to maim and kill.
Yet he’s not like Dexter–he’s not a serial killer full of self-loathing. Reacher likes himself just fine.
Is it any wonder, then, that being in a profession which loves alpha heroes that I’ve noticed my own hero is suddenly displaying some alarming Reacher-like qualities? My hero is suddenly a lot less apologetic in chapter three. He is more preoccupied with business.
Scarier still, he’s perfectly willing to revel in the lust of a super sexy moment with my heroine, but afterwards he’s no longer immediately sucked into a deep pool of emotional commitment. Pre-Reacher my hero was denying the bond. Now he isn’t denying it–he doesn’t feel it. He is perfectly happy in the moment they have together and with her and how it all went. His thoughts don’t go one tiny bit beyond that.
As Reacher once said, “Feelings? What are those?”
It made me shiver when I read that. I also wanted to laugh, because he’s being honest.
So readers, what should I do? Impose a No Lee Child Reading ban while I’m finishing up my novel?
On the other hand, isn’t it good when characters come alive and have a will of their own? Maybe the Reacher voice is a reality check against my man-loving “isn’t every man at heart really a good guy and a feminist if he’s being rational and not scared or something” mind set. I mean, I want my guys to be good guys–sure. But I want them to be guys.